Photos: Mike Doran/Sonoma Raceway

Team Penske quartet completes critical test at Sonoma

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Team Penske will have an extra day of data and running in its pocket going into next week’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (Sunday, Sept. 17, 6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), following today’s test at Sonoma Raceway.

The release from the track is below.

Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power completed a one-day test session at Sonoma Raceway on Thursday to prepare for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship race weekend at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Sept. 15-17.

This marks a particularly important test session for the Team Penske drivers, as all four are in championship contention. Newgarden (560 points) leads the point standings by a slim three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon with teammates Castroneves (538), defending series champion Pagenaud (526) and 2014 series champion Power (492) also within reach of the championship.

“We’re in a good position with the points lead, but it’s not anything secure,” said Newgarden. “We’ve got to have a good weekend here and I think having a test day like today is always helpful. What we learned today we want to apply to the race weekend. Team Penske has always been strong here, so we’ve got to execute on that.”

Despite wet conditions on Thursday morning, the drivers were able to get on track at noon and complete approximately five hours of testing throughout the afternoon.

“It was a little bit misty this morning and a little bit cooler, so we didn’t start right away, but at the end of the day the entire Team Penske got a little taste of what it’s going to be like next week and were able to try some interesting things,” said 2008 Sonoma race winner Castroneves. “So, right now, we feel more prepared than ever, but things can always change.”

Double points will be awarded for the season finale, which will mark the 12th consecutive year the IndyCar Series championship has been decided in the final race. With a win, the 26-year-old Tennessean Newgarden would celebrate a first championship in his inaugural year driving for Hall of Fame owner Roger Penske, but that will be no small feat, as the four drivers trailing him each boast at least one win in wine country.

“You can only control so much within the championship,” said Newgarden, who has posted a best finish of sixth in Sonoma. “The only thing we can really do is try to focus on winning the race and do the best job we can with that. If we win the race, we win the championship and for us that’s the best thing, that we control our own destiny.”

Carb Day: Tony Kanaan is fastest in final practice for Sunday’s Indy 500

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Tony Kanaan wants to put legendary driver and team owner A.J. Foyt back into Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan took a big step toward achieving that goal in Friday’s final practice for Sunday’s 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

Kanaan was fastest of the 33-driver field, with a best lap around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at 227.791 mph, more than 2 mph faster than the second-fastest driver, Kanaan’s former teammate, Scott Dixon (225.684 mph).

Foyt won a record-tying four Indy 500’s as a driver. It’s been nearly 20 years since he also won as a team owner in 1999 with Kenny Brack behind the wheel.

Marco Andretti was third-fastest (225.200 mph), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (224.815), Charlie Kimball (224.712), 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (224.083), Will Power (223.942), Danica Patrick (223.653), Spencer Pigot (223.584) and Ed Jones (223.556).

Other notable driver speeds included:

* Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th fastest (223.219 mph).

* Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden was 15th (223.186 mph).

* Helio Castroneves, hoping to earn a record-tying fourth 500 win, was 17th (222.913 mph).

* Graham Rahal was 21st (222.526).

* Former 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was 26th (221.916 mph), followed by rookie Robert Wickens (221.821 mph), carrying the mantle for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with James Hinchcliffe having failed to qualify for the race.

* The biggest surprise was 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, who was 32nd fastest (221.374 mph).

We’ll have the full speed grid, as well as full driver quotes, shortly. Please check back soon.

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